The Rolex Fastnet Race Village has burst into life with a flurry of finishing boats arriving in Plymouth during the night. Over 200 yachts have finished the 45th edition of the race and with entries from 20 different countries and crew from many more, there is a cosmopolitan blend of sailors enjoying the atmosphere in the purpose-built village situated within Plymouth Yacht Haven.
The camaraderie between the competitors in this year's race is typified by Géry Trentesaux, skipper of Courrier Vintage and Piet Vroon, skipper of Tonnerre de Breskens, who have been sharing a few memories over coffee in the Rolex Fastnet Race Village. The two great grand masters of corinthian yacht racing hail from different countries and have enjoyed fierce competition over many years but they are also good friends. "We have known each other for about 40 years and there is mutual respect, not just for sailing but also in terms of personality. I am sure that will never change," commented Piet Vroon, 83, who has completed his 25th Fastnet Race.
At just 24 years of age, Nikki Curwen wasn't even born when Piet Vroon has completed over a dozen Fastnets but the budding British sailor crossed the finish line in Artemis 77, winning the Figaro Class. "It hasn't sunk in yet, but today I am just going to chill out and enjoy the Race Village, chatting with my friends and catching up with my Dad who was racing on a Class40. I don't think it is very different for a girl to be here amongst all the male crew, we are all racing sailors and that is what really matters."
Johnny Vincent's TP52, Pace, was leading IRC overall for most of Wednesday but as the weather turned in favour of the smaller yachts, the British TP52 lost pole position. Pace pitman, Craig Nutter, was competing in his seventh Fastnet Race. "We were enjoying a beer in the crew bar, watching the spectacular national firework competition with mixed feelings." admitted Craig. " It was a fantastic sight but as the gunpowder smoke was blowing our way, we realised that the wind had changed and we knew then that we wouldn't win the race overall. However, winning our class against IRC optimised yachts, with world class sailors on board, is of some comfort."
David Lemke hails from the United States and was taking part in his first Rolex Fastnet Race on board Andy Middleton's First 47.7, EH01, racing in IRC Two. "The weather has been refreshing compared to Florida!" laughed David. "I had to buy a whole new set of foul weather gear and I can guarantee you, I used every bit of it. Despite the cold weather, this has been an amazing experience. I have sailed with the team before in the RORC Caribbean 600 but the Rolex Fastnet has always been a race I wanted to do and its great to be hear in Plymouth, swapping stories with the other teams. I wouldn't have missed this for the world."
Meanwhile, Stefano Spangaro is one of Italy's top professional sailors having competed in round the world races and grand prix events for two decades. For the Rolex Fastnet Race, Stefano was on the Ker 40, Aniene, in IRC One. "I really love the boat; great to race and minimal down below but with enough facilities to cook, eat and sleep offshore. The last time I raced the Fastnet was in 1997 on a Mumm 36, which was not as comfortable! The race is very well organised and the Race Village is perfect for sailors finishing the race. Congratulations to the organisers, it has been a pleasure to take part."
Ross Applebey's Oyster 48, Scarlet Logic, racing in IRC Two, finished the Rolex Fastnet Race in the early hours of the morning. "There is a great vibe in the Race Village, there are so many familiar faces but we are all tuned in to the race, so it is easy to share stories, even with complete strangers. We are all talking about the same things; the ups the downs, but each account is unique, we all have a different take on the race."
Walter van de Molen racing on board Dutch Grand Soleil 43, Avanti, was in good spirits this morning. "We are only a crew of five and we beat all the other Grand Soleil 43s, so we are really pleased." grinned Walter. "There are a lot of Dutch sailors in the race from Hellevoetsluis, my home port. It has been great to see them in Cowes before the start and here in Plymouth. To finish the race and get a warm welcome, a cold beer and a hot shower, is really appreciated by everyone."
Swan 60, Petite Flamme, has a crew of Australians and Russian sailors who met at the Rolex Sydney Hobart. Peter Inchbold has participated in 26 Rolex Sydney Hobarts but this is his first Rolex Fastnet Race. "The team running this event has done a great job and should be congratulated," commented Peter, enjoying a glass of Lanson Champagne with several crew members. "Dmitry Samokhin, who chartered Petite Flamme for the Rolex Fastnet Race , was asked if he would like to join the Royal Ocean Racing Club and on looking at the facilities and the values that the club stands for, I am sure he will accept."
With fresh winds propelling the yachts still racing at a good pace, many more yachts are expected to arrive over the finishing line in Plymouth later this afternoon and into the evening.